Hollywood Didn’t Get Undue Access for Bin Laden Film, Auditors Say

Don Ryan/AP File Photo

Allegations that the White House sought special access to the Defense Department for screenwriters planning a film on the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Ladin were found unsubstantiated in a Pentagon inspector general’s report released on Friday.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in August 2011 had asked for a probe of whether Hollywood producers and writers had been given “top-level access to the most classified mission in history.” The subsequent investigation was broadened to address a complaint that Leon Panetta, when he was CIA director, had violated procedure by speaking the name of the Navy SEAL commander of the bin Ladin raid during a June 2011 awards ceremony at CIA headquarters.

In response to the King’s initial queries, the report concluded, “Our review did not identify consultations between DoD personnel and representatives of the Executive Office of the President.” The White House, it continued, did communicate with Deputy Defense Secretary for Intelligence Michael Vickers on the film project, and a special operations planner was designated to meet with the filmmakers, but no such meeting occurred.

“Within the DoD, we did not identify instances whereby any special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures-related information was provided to filmmakers,” the report added.

A draft version of the report, leaked earlier this month to the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, contained discussion of Panetta’s actions, but those sections were not included in the final version. The IG’s office, which reported on the leak to King, said the matter had been referred to the CIA’s inspector general.

“The decision to interview individuals for a particular investigation is based on a wide range of factors, including the accessibility and availability of the information from an array of sources,” said Defense IG spokeswoman Bridget Serchak in a statement. “In this instance, the final report was responsive to the congressional queries without an interview with Secretary Panetta. As with any IG work product, the working draft was edited and revised during a rigorous internal review process.”

She added that related investigations continue and that “certain information was excluded from the final report so as to avoid compromising concurrent inquiries.”

POGO had suggested that the IG might be delaying the report to shield Panetta from criticism. That was denied in a letter to King by Principal Deputy Inspector General Lynne Halbrooks. “No third parties, to include anyone from the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the Executive Office of the President, attempted to influence the content of the report or its release date,” she said.

POGO resident journalist Adam Zagorin, in a Friday blogpost, said, “It remains unclear why the Defense Department IG spent time investigating Panetta’s disclosure of classified Pentagon information only to refer the matter to its counterpart at the CIA.”

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